Keep your secrets safe on Word
By Kim Komando
By Kim Komando
You probably e-mail business letters, resumes and personal documents as Word documents. But you may be telling people things that would make your hair curl. Unless you take extra steps, recipients of Word documents can easily see items deleted or modified.
For example, how about that letter you sent to Joe Jones? You first referred to him as a "sniveling creep." You changed that to "great guy." But Joe may know what you really think.
Hidden within that letter was your original wording. Microsoft Word dutifully saved it all. And Joe doesn't have to be a rocket scientist to find it.
Anybody who uses Word risks exposing sensitive information. Word inserts metadata (information about data) to help identify author names, document titles, keywords, print and save dates, and names of people who have reviewed and saved a document. Metadata can also spill the beans about your place of business: your company or organization's name, the name of the network server or hard drive on which the document is saved and any comments added.
Some of this data are easily seen in Word. And some can be viewed only by opening the document in a specialized program. Regardless, the data are there.
Don't be embarrassed if you've never considered this subject. Corporations with information technology departments run into this problem. The software company Bitform studied Word, Excel and PowerPoint files on the Web sites of several Fortune 100 companies, and was able to identify thousands of user names from the documents.
There are ways to ensure that your personal or company data stays with you:
Track Changes must be disabled before writing the document. Otherwise, any changes made will not be removed.
Contact Kim Komando at firstname.lastname@example.org.